5 Tips for letting go and moving on when you’re in recovery and toxic relationships have to end
Letting go and moving on from unhealthy relationships begins when you start connecting on an authentic level. What does that even mean? What are the signs of a toxic relationship anyway? Do you dread being with someone because of the arguments or put downs? Are you afraid to express yourself? Are you manipulated or lied to? An unhealthy relationship is when you lie all the time, or someone lies to you. And it’s a drama a minute.
Hiding the facts or the truth about what’s going are some signs of a toxic relationship. You are controlled by others or are afraid to be or express yourself. What happens in recovery, whether from substance use or unhealthy behaviors? You understand that you can’t control other people and letting go of unhealthy relationships is the only way to move on and heal.
Becoming trustworthy means you want trustworthy people around you
Having enriched, healthy, and trustworthy interactions is a juggling act because many people are involved. What happens when friends and loved ones aren’t honest and healthy? In recovery we learn that we only have control over our own actions. And that means we have to work on ourselves and not try to control others. That’s where letting go comes into play. That means letting go of bad relationships and all the guilt, resentment and anger that goes with them. But how to do it?
Focusing on yourself is first step to letting go and moving on
Most of us know that romantic relationships in early recovery are discouraged so we can focus on ourselves and gain a sober foundation. Also because emotions are insane (even more so in early sobriety) and can easily drive us back to a drug or a drink. This can be the case with any relationship, not just romantic, but when we hear the word “relationship” most of us automatically think of a romantic partner, so I’ll start here.
Warning signs when a romantic relationship goes bad
Warning signs of a romantic relationship going bad in recovery are: feeling inhibited to work a program, being gaslighted, low self-esteem, always feeling hurt, not feeling comfortable to hang out with friends (especially healthy ones), continuous fighting, not feeling appreciated, etc. These are a few of a plethora of warning signs that a romantic relationship is growing toxic. The best suggestion that was given to me: Break it off as soon as possible. Here’s where letting go and moving on is a necessity for mental health.
The above warning signs can be applied to any relationship — friend, co-worker, family. Our lives are inundated with connections to people in one way or another. A relationship going bad can be as blatant as being backstabbed or having vindictive lies from someone close to you ruin your reputation. Or it can be subtle, such as being torn down slowly over time or being manipulated ever so methodically. Just like any problem in recovery, it is important to feel your emotions appropriately and dive into the solution.
Be a survivor means letting go
Don’t play the victim. It’s easy to be the victim, live in the problem, and seek pity. Remember, no matter what is done to us, we can always find our part in it. Do some step work and move forward. Learn from the mistakes and grow as a human being. Most importantly, get out of the relationship and start healing. It is empowering to make a conscious decision to move forward.
Don’t pick up and relapse no matter what
This should be the top of your don’t do list. Emotions can be tough to handle. Jealousy, betrayal, and pain are like a poison, but no matter what, do not look to substances to numb the discomfort. Find appropriate outlets such as leaning on your support network, diving into exercise or art, go to meetings, and listening to music. Emotions are temporary, they will pass.
Forgive and pray
This is a tough one. Resentment is a number one offender of relapse for people in recovery. It is also exhausting to hold grudges as it takes up the time and energy we could be using for healthy activities and daily life. Don’t waste your time on relationships that have gone bad; they went bad for a reason. Pray for the person and forgive them. “Bless them, change me” is a solid mantra. The “Prayer of Saint Francis” is another excellent mantra to help you find serenity and peace. And of course the mantra of recovery, The Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Through prayer, you’ll find forgiveness. Don’t forget to forgive yourself too!
Handle yourself appropriately
Ending a relationship is hard. You may still have to see the person in meetings or at work. Maybe you share a mutual friend or their name comes up at a social gathering. It is easy to jump on emotions and start sharing with the world business they don’t need to be a part of. Pause. Do not react, respond. Or better yet, keep it to yourself. Although it is tough to not be ruled by emotions when our ex-whoever comes up, I promise, the reward far exceeds the trouble we can get ourselves into. Handling yourself with grace will promote self-esteem, empowerment, and integrity. It will also help you grow and heal.
Giving thanks is an essential component of letting go and moving on. It may seem like the toughest one, but I promise one of the most rewarding … give it some time. Thank your ex-whoever for backstabbing you, manipulating you, or whatever. Take a step back — have you learned from the situation? Have you grown in the process? I can assure you that you have. For example, an ex-friend backstabbed me and brutalized my reputation, but here I am over three years later thriving. I am stronger, wiser, more guarded, transparent, and have grown to be known for my authenticity and ethics. That’s huge! You know what, she pushed me to do better. I fight harder and push forward everyday. A lot of my feelings about the situation have caused me grow, so I thank her.
Letting go and moving on take time
All in all, some days are better than others. Surviving a bad relationship is a process — like grieving — but once practicing these five things becomes second nature, it’ll get easier. The more we grow, the more healthy relationships we will take on and everyone will have its own special trajectory. Some connections may be forever and some may be for a season with a reason (I love that phrase). But above all, learn from the bad and be grateful for the good.